Rugby Championship: Five lessons from Round 1

Date published: August 22 2016

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We pick five lessons from the weekend's Rugby Championship action which saw victories for New Zealand and South Africa.

Oupa Mohoje can play at seven for South Africa
Eyebrows were raised when Allister Coetzee picked Mohoje at blindside flank for the clash against Argentina. Many felt he wasn't a merit selection and viewed his inclusion as a weakness in the side. However, Mohoje proved his doubters wrong with an impressive performance, especially on defence, as he looks to establish himself as the first-choice number seven in the absence of the injured Siya Kolisi. Coetzee was full of praise for Mohoje's contributions against the Pumas and if his injury problems stay away he might yet make the position his own.

Vincent Koch redeemed himself    
Koch was a substitute on Saturday but spoke during the build-up to the Test about his struggles against the Argentina scrum during his first start for the Boks almost exactly a year ago. Koch was given a hard time by Pumas prop Marcos Ayerza in that game and conceded a sequence of penalties. He was eventually substituted at half-time. On Saturday, Koch made a big impression in his first scrum after coming on for the injured Julian Redelinghuys. He remained solid at scrum time and seems to have buried the ghosts of 12 months ago when he struggled to cope. With Redelinghuys out for six weeks, Koch now has an opportunity to build on that performance in the rest of the tournament. 

Robert du Preez has improved the Sharks
A year ago the Durban outfit failed to reach the Currie Cup play-offs and while they had a decent Super Rugby campaign, there was still a feeling they had underperformed. Du Preez took over the reigns for the Currie Cup competition and his impact has been immediate. The Sharks are the pacesetters so far, winning their first three games with a bonus-point each which sees them currently on top of the log. Their attacking style, especially from broken play and on the counter attack has been impressive but they will have to work on closing out games better. 

New Zealand are the team to beat
Can anyone stop the All Blacks from winning this year's Rugby Championship tournament? While unrealistic for some, many teams use beating them as a yardstick not only for progress, but also for success. By that method Australia have falled a long way since losing to New Zealand in last year's World Cup final. The men in black were ruthless in Sydney, completely outplaying their trans-Tasman rivals with an impressve display of skill and finishing. They remain the team to beat and after the first week of Rugby Championship action it looks unlikely that Australia, Argentina and South Africa will be unlikely to stop them from reclaiming the title.

Australia are a shambles
It's easy to write the Wallabies off after such a humiliating defeat at home, but one must keep in mind they did play the All Blacks, a side currently without equal in world rugby. Australia are almost certain to perform better against South Africa and Argentina, but that doesn't take away from the fact that they have now lost their last five Test matches. Coach Michael Cheika must be feeling the heat which makes Australia's remaining games against South Africa and Argentina of vital importance. Cheika will also be hoping injuries stay away after he lost three centres to injury during their 42-8 defeat on Saturday.

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